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The Inscriptions of Temple XIX at Palenque

The Inscriptions of Temple XIX at Palenque

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Published by: Mil Libros Por Leer on Jul 08, 2012
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Many readers are no doubt aware that publications in Maya epigraphy are highly inconsis-
tent when it comes to transcribing hieroglyphic signs. Specialists are equally conscious of
the situation, and all who actively pursue or follow Maya glyph studies struggle with the

seemingly constant changes and refnements found in the literature. Any single orthography
and its idiosyncratic features can never be perfect, since it is forged from an array of diffcult

(and sometimes unanswerable) questions involving linguistics and epigraphy. For these
reasons I am well aware that the system adopted here, different from others used in recent
years, will frustrate some readers, confuse others, and perhaps satisfy few. Even so, I believe
that the system used in these pages, based as it is on earlier and well established conventions,
will be a manageable one for students and colleagues to follow, even if not widely adopted
for future use.

Generally speaking, the changes in orthography chosen by epigraphers refect the rapid
changes and refnements in hieroglyphic research. Nearly two decades ago, Fox and Justeson

(1984) outlined the basis for the glyphic transcription system that came to be adopted by

most specialists in subsequent writing. George Stuart (1988) modifed these slightly when

establishing conventions to be used in the Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing, and
this system came to be widely adopted. Justeson (personal communication 1997) has rightly
noted that the ancient script differentiated between the fricatives h and j, as reconstructed for
proto-Ch’olan (Kaufman and Norman 1984). Many epigraphers, including the author (see

D. Stuart 1987b), had failed to take this into account, infuenced perhaps by the long-lasting

focus on Yucatecan languages in epigraphic research (in their early history Yucatecan lan-
guages lost this distinction, with both proto-Mayan *j and *h merging as h). Internal evidence
for the j and h distinction in the hieroglyphic script has been strengthened considerably in
recent years, and the two consonants were no doubt separate in the phonology of “Classic
Mayan,” or Classic Ch’olti’an, as the language of the inscriptions has recently been dubbed
(Houston, Robertson, and Stuart 2000).
In following the orthography adopted by the Research Reports, I have chosen one slight
modifcation from earlier conventions by using tz and tz’ in place of ts and ts’. Also, there
is now good evidence that the language of the inscriptions distinguished between long and

short vowels (Houston, Robertson, and Stuart 1998). In the transcription of signs and the
transliteration of texts, I have chosen to mark long vowels by doubling the letter: aa, for
example, in contrast to short a. Vowel length can be marked in one of several ways, and in
some previous works I and others have employed a vowel letter followed by a colon (a:, u:,
etc.). My preference for doubled vowel letters stems from a desire for visual simplicity, and
it is strengthened by its recent use by Martin and Grube (2000) in their remarkable book on
Classic Maya dynastic history.
Discussions continue about whether glottal stops attached to vowels in word-initial
position should be represented in glyphic orthography (e.g., ‘AJAW), and how this is best
done if so. Traditionally this has not been marked in the older epigraphic literature, but
it is standard practice in various linguistic orthographies and now often used in glyphic
transcriptions. I have opted to omit the representation of pre-vocalic glottals, since these are
not marked in the ancient script (as post-vocalic glottals are, as in tz’i-i, for tz’i’, “dog”). This
has the added advantage of simplifying the transliterations and transcriptions somewhat,
but I realize that others may well prefer to indicate it. In the same vein, I have opted to omit
the apostrophe in the implosive b’, which, while phonetically more precise, does not contrast
with an unglottalized b in Mayan languages.

The orthographic conventions underlying Maya epigraphy certainly have been in fux

for several years, but with improvements in the understanding of the script and its own

linguistic conventions, I am confdent that the dust will settle. Good communication among

scholars will be key in seeing this come about. Also, the recent inauguration of the Maya
glyph dictionary project, generously funded by FAMSI, will provide an excellent chance for
epigraphers and linguists to collaborate on a consistent and hopefully satisfactory system.

A Note on Orthography and Hieroglyphic Transcription 9

10 TheInscrIpTIonsFromTempleXIXATpAlenque

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